The Museum of Mississippi History will explore the entire sweep of the state’s history, from earliest times to the present. The museum collection dates back to artifacts acquired in the early days of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), founded in 1902. Initially housed in the state capitol, the small but popular exhibits featured military artifacts, fossilized bones, and even a ceremonial Polynesian head-dress.
In 1961 the State History Museum opened in the rehabilitated Old Capitol in downtown Jackson and operated there until 2005. While that site provided a grand setting, ongoing maintenance issues and the limitations of a historic structure convinced the Mississippi Legislature that a new building should be constructed for the state history museum.
The Old Capitol would then be fully restored and opened as a museum interpreting the history of the building, which served as the seat of Mississippi’s government from 1839 until 1903. In 1998 the Legislature authorized the department to begin planning a new Museum of Mississippi History.
Over the decades the collection continued to grow and focus more on materials directly related to the state’s history. MDAH now has the world’s finest collection of Mississippi artifacts, including a rare 1818 Twenty-Star U.S. flag, an original Bowie knife, quilts made by slaves, and prehistoric Native American artifacts.
The new Museum of Mississippi History will provide four times the exhibit space the Old Capitol offered—more than 21,000 square feet. With larger and more flexible galleries, the museum will be able to employ innovative exhibition techniques and address a broader range of topics in more depth.
The museum will be able to feature more of the state’s collection of artifacts in its permanent exhibits and also have room for temporary exhibits. Increased storage space will enable staff to properly care for the more than 13,000 artifacts in the museum’s collections.